How I avoid image overload

People tell me I should never delete “bad” pictures from my digital camera unless they’re obviously flawed (i.e. completely blank, fuzzy, missing heads). The reason? I can’t judge whether a picture is worth keeping until I view it on a full sized monitor.

Really? Do I have to?

Here’s why I’m whining. I take a lot of pictures. I’m talking at least five snapshots of the same subject from different perspectives. Do I really need to save all of them when I can immediately tell which ones are more effective in my little camera screen (I can even zoom in on sections that are questionable)?

Okay, maybe a few of the deleted images might have been worth keeping…or maybe some of the saved pictures weren’t as brilliant as I thought. But is that tragic when you think of the alternative – saving every single picture?

What if I saved them all? What if I came home from a one-week vacation (like my recent Yellowstone road trip) with two thousand pictures because I followed the “no delete” rule? Here’s what would happen. Those images would sit in my camera for the rest of their digital lives. I mean, who wants to weed through two thousand pictures?

Here’s what I do to prevent picture waste. I give myself a maximum take-home limit. For instance, if I take a one week vacation I try not to bring home more than two hundred images. I can deal with 200, it’s the perfect number for my vacation photo book or for uploading to my Share site. I can even choose my top 100 and email them to friends and family.

What’s your opinion on the “no delete” rule? How do you prevent picture overload? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Joey says

    This is a tough one because I am the same way, its too hard to tell which ones to delete even if they are of the same subject 5x on the camera – but each photo may be a tad different/better. I do like your maximum take-home limit. Seems very logical. I just took 240 pictures of my nieces soccer game again. And once i got them on the computer, i was able to go through each one and weed out the ones i don’t want. I do delete blurry ones, or ones where a persons head is cut off. I had a cute one of my niece, but it was blurry – so instead of deleting it (I couldn’t tell it was blurry on camera – some are more obvious) but with this particular photo I changed it to a black and white photo or some of the effects on can be fun to play around with to enhance your photo. I love the images you took on your trip. These are great tips. I’ll try to use your take-home limit when I’m in NM, but I have a feeling I’ll easily swing 200 pics a day. Plus with all the other Shutterfly cameras, we’ll have thousands of photos. But each one of us will hopefully have something different and unique we captured. This was a great article.
    I enjoy reading your articles. :)

  2. BarbaraJ says

    I always have an image overload while on vacation. I just take the time and go through the photos on the compute. I star the ones I want and delete the bad ones. After I star all the ones I think are pretty good; I then go from there and pick out the best ones. At home I take nature shots and usually do not have that many at a time so it is not a problem. Depending on my travel time and battery life; I may delete some of the photos when we spend the night on the road. It is hard to deside. It all depends on how badly I want the perfect shot. Great article.

  3. rsheedy says

    This is a very good question. I don’t usually delete my photos until after I get them onto my computer. This way I can compare my camera settings and with the various results and use the feedback to develop my photography skills. I also like to perform basic edits on most of my photos before I move them to their permanent location on my home network. So photo purging is part of my regular workflow process. Although, I have to admit that it’s not always easy to delete photos. Sometimes those nieces and nephews are just too darn cute, even if they aren’t in focus!

  4. says

    You bring up the great digital dilemma. To keep or not to keep, that IS the question. There have been times when I have taken so many pictures in one sitting that the good ones get lost in the mix. Too many can often diminish the gems that are hiding in betwixt the off-centered, unflattering, blurry or dull shots.
    I like your idea of having a cap on how many photos to take. It can keep you in check and prevent picture overload which sometimes keeps you away from a bulging digital folder. Setting a limit for yourself seems like a better idea than deleting on the spot. You can’t always spot the best or worst shots from the camera screen. I’ve had many surprises once viewed full-size and even more surprises when looking back on folders that were taken months or years before.
    Sometimes a favorite shot steals the show from the rest of the bunch. Taking a long break gives you a set of new eyes. I occasionally have a look back through my old folders and have discovered that many shots I’d practically ignored the first time around were much more deserving than my first judgment. Shots that lost, in favor of a stand-out capture, barely made an impression upon me, initially. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve gone to old folders and found precious photos that I can’t believe I’d casually dismissed. These are the would-be DELETED files! Rediscovering lost gems are the times I’ve been saved by my choice of “to NOT delete!”

  5. says

    This is a great topic. I remember when I used film…I took the pictures that I really wanted, and tried to get the best ones possible! It was expensive!! Then came the world of digital ~ well, I still try to get the best shot possible…but maybe a few of a different angle ! I start to get weary of yes, yes, yes, no, yes, no, no of just tons of pictures! For me…I shoot what I want and then as I go through them the have to be in my mind…70% of a good shot or quality – or they get deleted. At 70% at least I can play around with them and still have a keeper..!! So for every 100 pics….I delete about 30 of them. I think 70 pics from an event is doable with the storage we have these days. But There are only so many pics of the same thing that I can and will watch over and over.
    I also agree that to do about 20-30 pics at a time….your eyes will thank you!

  6. says

    I think you have to go down that road and come back… You have the digital so take lots… but the better you get at taking a photograph.. you will realize you dont need a many shots of the same thing over and over… Bam,…you can get want you want in just a few shots..and then move on…

  7. stephcarson says

    200 as a limit wouldn’t work for me. What I do is NOT leave photos on my camera. I try to let no more than a week go by (usually ever day) and download all pics to an album an event. I go through and delete. If I have a series where realistically I will only use one, I delete all others, even if they’re good. Then I upload albums to Shutterfly and share to my family site.

    I usually end up keeping 1000 for a vacation with 300 or so deleted.

  8. says

    If at all possible, review, edit and upload daily – that would eliminate the “delete it before I’ve really seen it” question. If not possible, my thought is if you delete it, you won’t miss it or if you do miss it, it’s gone, so nothing more can be done about it. Let it go and move on… I can tell you, it is SO much more freeing to just let those “maybe” pix go.

    In my experience, many people don’t edit tightly enough. At the very least it will be a lesson in doing that.

  9. louise71594 says

    I am definitely guilty of picture overload. I take at least 200, and that includes long wknd vacations. Some of them I will delete right away, others I will keep and wait until I see them on the big screen. My theme is “capturing the moment” when I take pictures, but it does not always work that way.

    I plan to focus more on non-touristy photos, and I almost always take pictures of the food that we eat.

  10. says

    I personally keep all photos until I have chance to view them. Why take 5 photos of the same subject if your not going to take the time to look at them and decide which one you like best? I run through them using my Windows Viewer deleting those images that do not tell a story or have personal meaning. A photo does not have to be perfect in order for me to keep it but it does have to have meaning. I find being more discriminating about how many photos I take place in the first place is a better course of action.

  11. enigmaj91 says

    WOW !!!! The very first image in this article is the image that I have on my desktop on my computer here. There is one difference though, when I took my image, I zoomed in a bit more. Looks like you were there earlier in the day than I was which gave you more shadows to give more depth.

    It drives my wife nutz when I go thru and delete 100’s of images from my cf cards from our trips. She can’t stand to think what I throw away. I tell her “why keep mediocre (sp?) images that’ll only take up hard drive space and I will never want to display them anyhow.

  12. CA004155 says

    Great article and something I’ve struggled with too. Have to admit I can be “brutal” when going through photos because I tend to also take the same pic from different angles, with different effects and even at different time of day. Just came back from a week in the back country. No option of putting images on a computer to take a look so tried to edit every day. I had to take an extra battery to make sure I could do this. Upon return home I went through the almost 300 shots left and ended up with just over 200. So that “200 rule” seemed to work for me too! Also agree its important to get at the pictures right away and look at them, edit and save. Otherwise it can just be too overwhelming.

  13. angies5 says

    I love that we all share this dilemma, all the time. I just got back from my sister’s wedding and I can’t tell you how many times someone asked me, “So how many pictures have you taken?” Followed by, “What will you do with them all?” We were in CA and spent the week traveling and reuniting with family – not to mention the wedding festivities. I think I ended up with 1500 photos. I really like the idea of setting a limit for yourself. But where would I even start with limiting myself. I guess that is why my computer hard drive space is continually maxed out. hehe. I try to leave everything as in, wait a few days, pull them onto my computer, and then go through them. I have learned over time how to do some cool things with over or underexposed photos. I will generally only keep 3 or 4 of the same thing (different angles), so that helps me delete a bit. All in all, I am terrible – and if there was a show for digital hoarders, I would be on it. :)

  14. says

    Great article Rachel! I hate to throw images away but I know I have to because of space on my computer. I lean towards keeping a couple of the same subject as you know “Can’t have enough for a SHUTTERFLY photobook!

  15. Susan H says

    I have developed a pattern which works for me. We have taken several 8-10 day trips in the last few years – Galapagos Islands, Alaska, Amazon, Baha and Sea of Cortez, Italy, and across the US. I like keeping a daily journal, When I make my notes at night I review the day’s photos, and that is when I delete those I know I won’t like or need. If I am unsure, however, I keep them. I usually manage to reduce the number of pictures for a trip of 7-10 days down to about 220-250.

    As soon as possible after I return home I write my trip log, getting all the details of day to day events, hotels, museums, wildlife, etc, etc. Once this is done I tackle the photos – edit, crop, enhance, etc. I am then ready to give each photo a caption to identify it,making sure I keep them in numerical order as well. If I can’t remember where a photo was taken, or what kind of flower, etc, I usually find that I can get the answer by Googling, for accuracy.

    My next step is to upload the pictures to Shutterfly and create a photo album for that trip, from which I can share photos with friends and family.. From there I go to projects and create a travel photo book. I refer to my written trip log to add captions and comments to the photo book, creating a wonderful journey of our trip. By the time I have done all this I have really imbedded the trip in my memory. I print a copy of the trip log and save it in the photo album for future reference and enjoyment.

    Re-reading these albums is like taking the trip all over again and is a great way to share the trip with family and friends in person. Thanks to Shutterfly for making this so much fun.

  16. says

    I’m bad about keeping images. I TRY to view them in the field. I take a couple of the same and then zoom in to see if the focus is where I want it. If its way off…I delete right away. If its kinda off…I keep it and upload. Then…after they are uploaded i’ll go in and delete all but the best. I was told a long time ago…’ONLY SHOW YOUR BEST IMAGES” That is advise I live by! haha…

    I shoot in Raw and JPEG so I have to be picky about what I keep. (the RAW images really eat up a lot of space on my computer but they are a wonderful thing to have)

    Love this article and I love the discussion!

  17. says

    I’m with Angie, above — if there were a Digital Hoarder show, I’d be perfect for it!

    I keep every single image. And I take TONS. I waited so long to get a digital camera that I think I’ve just not gotten over the fact that I CAN take so many and it really doesn’t cost anything. I have an external hard drive for all my photos and videos — because they take up so much space. But part of the reason I take so many is that I have a toddler — and it’s a lot harder than it looks to get good, smiling, looking-at-the-camera shots of a busy two year old!

    I say take 1000 pictures if you want to. Take 10,000! — why limit yourself when you can always delete them when you get home and truly determine if they’re keepers. The more the merrier when it comes to memories. And you never know when that photo may help you tell a story later on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *